During the December special legislative session in Olympia, the conservative Associated General Contractors of Washington and the liberal Washington State Labor Council were pushing a Paul Krugman-style public works project to create jobs.

Today, state house Capital Budget Chair Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-44, Snohomish) unveiled the specifics: He's calling for $1.1 billion in bonding capacity to fund $995 million worth in projects—and create an estimated 25,000 jobs— in everything from toxic cleanup to parks maintenance to fish hatcheries to forest safety to K-12 energy efficiency to higher ed building projects.

Five pots of money would pay for the bonds. Of those, the only source that affects the general fund, which currently pays $1.9 billion in debt service, is $134 million in general obligation bonds that are already assumed in the $1.9 billion figure. Meanwhile, $111 million would rely on colleges issuing their own bonds, while $160 million from the public works account and $6.5 million in the heritage center account is available in their respective fund balances. Dunshee is simply earmarking them for this batch of nearly $1 billion in bonds.

The biggest source, though, $717 million, is being siphoned off from other dedicated accounts: $25 million (15 percent) from the $162 million solid waste and public utility tax account; $17 million (10 percent) from the $172 million hazardous substance tax account; $3 million (25 percent) of the $12 million aquatic lands enhancement account; and $8 million of the $100 million lottery account.

Environmentalists were upset last year when the dedicated hazardous substance account, for example, was "swept," but right now Washington Environmental Coalition lobbyist Cliff Traisman says "we support the proposal, and we like the approach because it's a win-win for jobs and the environment." He admits that "we're nervous about how the dollars may end up being spent and we'll work with lawmakers to make sure as many dollars are spent on cleanup as possible."

Dunshee's proposal includes $180 million in Department of Ecology projects such as $33 million on toxic cleanup.

When I asked Dunshee for a quote, he demurred, telling me he had "the unemployed" speaking at his press conference "because that's who this is for." (I wasn't able to be at the press conference.)

The capital budget committee chair on the senate side, state Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-26, Gig Harbor), who fought with Dunshee when Dunshee refused to lower the debt limit last year, is working side-by-side with Dunshee this time and has released his own similar list (nearly $1 billion) of projects and funding sources.

Kilmer says he wants to "help move our economic recovery from ‘park’ into ‘drive'" while construction costs and interest rates are low. "Let's invest now instead of paying more later for projects that are on our list anyway."

Kilmer worked on his project list with the ranking Republican on his committee, Sen. Linda Evans Parlette (R-12, Wenatchee), who "supports the plan conceptually," she tells us. Though she "hasn't signed a blood oath that she can bring her caucus along," Kilmer says. Kilmer stresses that his list isn't a "make work" quick fix list, but rather, he chose "transformational" projects—such as $40 million in port infrastructure and nearly $200 million in high-tech education infrastructure, that create a snowball effect, upgrading communities to make them more business ready.

Sen. Parlette tells PubliCola: “There are no agreements, but I have a seat at the table.” She adds that she "support

Capital bond legislation needs a two-thirds vote to pass.

 
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